Satsuma Gishiden Vol. #03 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 14.95
  • Pages: 254
  • ISBN: 1-59307-519-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Satsuma Gishiden Vol. #03

By Matthew Alexander     April 24, 2007
Release Date: March 21, 2007

Satsuma Gishiden Vol.#03
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiroshi Hirata
Translated by:Naomi Kokubo with assistance by Jeff Carlson
Adapted by:Naomi Kokubo with assistance by Jeff Carlson

What They Say
Water is a force to be reckoned with. It can break metal in an instant, or over time. And it surely can shatter a society crippled by politics and fear. This is the story of Edo-era Japan, of a nation divided by social strata and infighting. A few bold samurai must force many disparate and poor regions to sacrifice their very lives for the future in order to hold back the nation's raging rivers.

The Review
The Satsuma samurai not only face the insults of the Shogun and the local samurai of the Mie Prefecture, where the water project is, but also the infighting between Satsuma samurai of different classes. This volume examines the tension between upper and lower class samurai who are supposed to treat equally while working on the water project. Unfortunately, the actual work takes a while to begin and during that time, some upper class samurai continue to act better than the lower. This builds strong dissension between the classes and causes blood to spill.

The whole situation is quite sad as Satsuma clansmen take their anger out on each other because those in command forbid them to lash out at the Shogun's men, which would give the Shogun the excuse he's looking for to attack Satsuma.

Another aspect of this series that I continue to appreciate is the stories told from the peasant's point of view. One story in this volume examines the life of boatmen who are responsible for moving people and trade throughout the river delta. Without the boatmen, nothing could be done in a timely manner. Unfortunately, like all laborers, men of power have taken advantage of the boatmen financially. Led by Ginji, the boatmen lash out against their oppressor Owariya. In a surprising twist, Ginji behaves like a true samurai and sacrifices his family for the sake of victory. In the end, he not only wins but also earns the respect of his fellow boatmen.

The aspect of this series that I find most interesting is the different levels within the samurai class. I understood that some clans held more power, land, and political influence than others did, but I never realized there were different levels within a single clan and with such stringent boundaries. Overall, the Satsuma clan illustrates how the samurai class actually imitates the entire class system in regards to samurai/merchants/farmers. This examination helps make up for Hirata's scattered style of storytelling. There continues to be no single protagonist for the reader to follow and cheer for, which makes it difficult to really draw me in. Although a big plus for me was the fact, this volume stays in a linear timeline.


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